On Tuesday, July 10, 2018, Gov. Charlie Baker announced during his visit to Westfield State University’s campus that the university will receive a $21.25 million investment from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to renovate its oldest building, Parenzo Hall. The funding to Westfield State is made possible by H.4549 An Act providing for capital repairs and improvements for the Commonwealth, a bill ceremonially signed by Gov. Baker during his July 10 visit. Through this major, multi-year renovation project, the University aspires to transform the dated Parenzo Hall into a state-of-the-art hub for student success and workforce development.
Westfield State University submitted a major project capital request for consideration by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s FY19 Higher Education Capital Project Funding. An estimated total project cost of $40 million was established for the full renovation of Parenzo Hall and demolition of Mod Hall. The University will be granted its request of $21.25 million for this project. The University will contribute nearly $20 million of its own monies to complete the project.
The project’s vision is to transform the University’s oldest building (circa 1956) into a state-of-the-art hub for student success and workforce development. The project aims to strengthen collaborations with community college, K–12, industry, and regional partners; and to leverage technology to better serve students. The project will reduce deferred maintenance (estimated at more than $28 million for Parenzo) and allow for the demolition and removal of 16,800 GSF of poor-quality space.
The renovation will promote major change in three fundamental areas at the University:
In addition to optimal space utilization and technology-rich learning and teaching environments, renovations will create two new centers in Parenzo—the Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships and the Center for Student Success and Engagement. The Centers will not only benefit Westfield State’s students and community, but individuals in area communities beyond our campus.
The Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships will leverage technology to serve as a nexus for innovative collaboration in Western Mass., partnering with K–12 school districts, community colleges, and industry partners. It will teach students and community partners how to engage productively in online-hybrid environments that increase flexibility for students, facilitate co-enrollment, expand course choices, and provide a bridge to employment. The center will work with community colleges to ease the transfer process by offering financially-supported hybrid-style programs and boot camps. It will work with chambers of commerce and economic development boards to broker relationships, inform curriculum, and secure support.
In addition, the Center for Student Success and Engagement will address the goals of increasing retention and graduation rates, as well as reducing achievement gaps. The Center will address the continuing decline in the number of working age adults. In addition the Center will increase student preparation for advanced learning and support exploration of career pathways in elementary and high schools to prepare them for on-the-job training. New and in-demand certificate programs and advanced study options will be offered to its business partners, utilizing technology.
The two new Centers will be linked programmatically in an effort to offer students the opportunity to engage with industry professionals, work on real-world application of their knowledge and skill sets, and explore career opportunities.
Following the July 10, 2018 announcement, a significant amount of time (more than a year) will be required to plan for this major project on campus, in addition to the proposed development stage. Although there will not be an initial flurry of visible movement or progress with the project, a significant amount of planning and decision-making will take place in advance of the onset of physical renovations.
First, Westfield State will begin working with the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance in mapping out the project. The University will establish a project steering committee in conjunction with the Facilities Planning and Advisory Committee. To guide the project, the selection of a designer and architect will take place, followed by the creation of an approved study and schematic design.
Look for updates in NewsWise and other campus communication on the progress of this planning phase.